We knew when we set off that our 24km morning ride to Fox would be the hardest leg of the day. In our guide, “Classic NZ Cycle Trails”, it details there being 3 tough hills and we were just 7km from Franz Joseph when we encountered the first of them. Rising quickly over 2.5km to 320metres elevation, once over the summit the downhill provided much needed relief, but it was only temporary as we began our climb towards summit number 2. At 400metres elevation it was tougher again but we're much stronger and fitter than when we began our epic ride 10-days ago.
Over the top, 2 down 1 to go, and although hill 3 had similar elevation to hill 2 the incline was slightly more dramatic in places. We ground it out making the summit without stopping where Rene and Denise were waiting to provide a quick refuel before we relished a 5km speedy descent into Fox to enjoy a light lunch at the Hobnail café. It had been a pretty confronting ride completed in just under 2 hours, phenomenal riding by the Hospice Warriors that utterly impressed one of the local mountain guides we met at our lunch stop.
In the first few days lunch stops were around an hour, but now with our ever increasing fitness levels our recovery was so much quicker so we were ready to leave Fox in 30 minutes for our afternoon leg to Pine Grove. 36km of largely flat riding interspersed with a number of modest hills (there's always hills of course). We deliberately rode the first 20km hard covering it in 54 minutes, great speed considering 80% of the time we rode into a reasonable Southerly head wind. Rene and Denise caught up with us at the 25km mark and refilled our electrolytes for the final 11km ride to Pine Grove.
The scenery was gorgeous all the way, but this far down the West Coast it's an enduring parade of Mother Nature at her finest. Of course there was the customary collection of hills that always seem to arise during the last few kilometres of your ride, but given the mornings 3 peaks they were simply lumps in the highway. The Southerly head wind gains in strength as the afternoon wears on, so arriving at our Pine Grove accommodation just before 3pm was quite fortuitous timing. Of course Rene and Denise had prepared for our arrival as usual (amazing to experience when you're pushing your bodies so hard every day) and we headed straight for a warm shower.
Shortly afterwards Rene arrived at our unit with a large plate of hot whitebait fritters prepared by Carol (Carol and David are the owners of Pine Grove Motel). Crammed with freshly caught whitebait and bound together by a fine, light egg emulsion. They were seriously tasty whitebait fritters and provided perfect light afternoon nourishment to our tired bodies. Whitebait fritters for afternoon tea… standard fare in this part of NZ, but very special for us guys. Soon after while Virginia was prepaying the account for the rooms Carol and David gave her a $200 donation for Hospice… incredibly hospitable and generous people. If you're looking for very clean modest cabin accommodation when travelling down the West Coast between Franz Joseph and Haast, Pine Grove Motels are worth stopping in, especially for families on a budget. Tonight we are having BBQ'd steak burgers with the works made from fresh ingredients we picked up in Franz Joseph this morning. Of course there will be the mandatory couple of glasses of wine over some reflection on today and planning for tomorrow.